McGuinty promises `greenbelt' for GTA
Liberals pledge to beef up police `We are rolling out our platform early'


The Ontario Liberals promise to establish thousands of hectares of green space from Niagara Falls to the Oak Ridges Moraine, where they would stop plans to build 6,600 more homes, as part of detailed election commitments released yesterday.

The promises, contained in a 29-page booklet that deals with justice issues, the environment, transit, housing and urban sprawl, carry an estimated price tag of almost $750 million.

"We are rolling out our platform early because we think it's important to spell out where we stand on the issues that are important to Ontario families," Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty told reporters.

McGuinty said he would get the money from cancelling the Tories' private-school tax credit and killing a $2.2 billion corporate tax cut, among other things.

With the next provincial election coming as early as spring, McGuinty appears to have learned from former Tory premier Mike Harris' success in the run-up to the 1995 election when he unveiled the Common Sense Revolution. The Liberals have already released their plans for education with a price tag of $1.6 billion.

If elected, McGuinty said the Liberals would fund the hiring of 1,000 new police officers, 100 new probation and parole officers, and more crown attorneys, and put deadbeat parents' pictures on a Web site.

He said governments have for too long given the "green light on projects that chew up precious green space, projects that erode the quality of life in our communities.

"A highlight of our plan will be a permanent greenbelt around the GTA and the Golden Horseshoe. This greenbelt will permanently protect more than 600,000 acres (240,000 hectares) of green space — I'm talking about environmentally sensitive land and farmland and it's going to extend all the way from Niagara Falls to Lake Scugog (in Durham Region)," he said.

"This greenbelt will also act to help us focus development where it belongs, easing gridlock and fighting sprawl."

To begin with, McGuinty said, a Liberal government would pass legislation giving "ironclad" protection to the Oak Ridges Moraine. "That means putting a stop to the 6,600 homes which are scheduled for construction on the moraine, adjacent to Richmond Hill. I will not allow that construction to proceed," he said.

Glenn De Baeremaeker, of Save the Rouge, applauded the announcement, saying the Tory government "misled" environmentalists when it said there would be no more housing.

This greenbelt will include the Niagara Escarpment, the moraine and new areas, including the Dufferin-Rouge Agricultural Preserve and the Bronte Creek Provincial Park-Escarpment Corridor.

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